Last Sunday, I (Taryn) took on the Vermont 50 as my sixth time on a mountain bike. I am new to cycling in general, and have realized that the only way to learn and improve your skills is to spend time in your saddle. A 50 mile mountain bike race is exactly what I needed to figure out the sport and improve my skills, but it wasn’t easy.
The race started in the dark and there was loads of excitable energy in the air. I took my first gravel climb with power and a great attitude but as the morning progressed I became frustrated with my failed attempts to get up and over some wet rocks and logs. Every time I slipped or came unclipped I felt defeated. I battled with my personal expectations for the first few hours. Then I got a flat, of course. But I got back on the trail, slowly made my way up a massive climb and eventually came to a clearing on the top of a hill. I took a brief moment to soak in the scenery and my attitude started to change.
It was a beautiful day, in a beautiful place with wonderful and strong people on the trail beside me. Once I forced a smile on my face, something clicked and things started to make sense. I felt more in control of my bike, I started getting up and over obstacles, I was picking up speed on the descents and felt good on the climbs…. I was learning and it felt great.
It was an emotional rollercoaster, literally; up and down hills I experienced fear, frustration, embarrassment, joy, relief and pride. Even though I was the only Lasercat on the trail, my teammates were with me in spirit. When I felt tired or defeated, alone in the woods, I just thought of the strong ladies back in Philly cheering me on. I ended up finishing 50 miles and 8,000 ft of climbing in under 7 hours and placed 5th in my class. I’ll be back next year Vermont!